Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Greatest Gift!

The verdict from the Judge came.

The courtroom was silent, as the Judge spoke.


My heart sank into my chest and panic overcame me as my body began to shake with fear. What was I going to do now? I knew I was guilty and had to pay for my crimes. But somehow I thought, it wouldn't turn out this way. I thought I could get out of it. I thought I had time to undo all the bad I had done. I wanted to change, really I did. But I couldn't erase the things that I had done. 

The police began to escort me out the door. Death was  my punishment.

I knew people died young and old but never thought I would one day die. Not like this. 

I pleaded with the Judge, "Please, another way! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to let it get this far. I can work off my wrong doings and do good things in place of them. Can't I fix what I've done?" 

My plea fell on deaf ears. The verdict was final. 

Then from the back of the courtroom came a voice. A man came forward.

"I will take her place." 

The Judge halted in his steps and looked back at the man. "Her sentence is death, are you sure?"

"Yes, I will take her place."

Before I could stop him, my chains were set free, and this innocent man was taken in my place. How could he? How could the Judge agree to this? Tears streamed from my eyes, as guilt flooded my every being. I deserved to die. I committed the crimes not him. How could he pay such a high price in my place?

That man was my Father.

Why would a Father sacrifice his own life for his daughter? Unconditional love. 
What parent in their right mind wouldn't do anything to save their own child?
As simple as this made up story is to understand- why is it that people today make the story of Jesus coming, his life, burial and resurrection so complicated to accept and believe? Why do we reject such simple truth.

Although this story was made up, it's a very real picture of our sin and the price that we owe-eternal separation from God, an eternity in hell. There will come a day when we will stand before God and give an account of our life.
Hebrews 9:27 - And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

We are all guilty of our sin. There is none righteous no not one. 

But God sent his son, Jesus to this earth for one purpose, to redeem us.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Just like in my story- Jesus, took our place. He tasted death so we don't have to spend an eternity separated from God. On our own it's impossible to erase our sins. No good deed will undo what sin we have already committed. Hell was made for Satan and his angels, but God can not let sin enter into Heaven because Heaven is a perfect place.  

Matthew 25:41 - Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Hope in the Cross of Calvary:
Romans 8:1 - [There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

The Bible says in John 3, that God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on Christ is not condemned but he that believeth not is condemned already.

If you've never placed your faith in Jesus Christ, then you fall into the condemned already category. Death- eternal separation from God- is your punishment. But God doesn't want you to die and spend an eternity separated from Him.

God sent his son, Jesus, born of a virgin, to this earth to save us. That's why we celebrate Christmas. We celebrate the birth of Christ because it is a reminder of God's ultimate sacrifice to us- His Son. Jesus willingly left Heaven to be born of a virgin, to be made human, a helpless baby, to die in our place. If that isn't Love then I don't know what is.

What is it that keeps a person from accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior? I believe whole heartedly, that it's pride. Thinking that they don't "need" Jesus because they can make it on their own- pride. 
 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  We must humble ourselves as little children.
Thinking they have time and can do it later- stupidity.  We aren't promised tomorrow. Our life is but a vapor that is here for a little while and then vanisheth away (James 4:14). Think about it. Eternity-is endless time. Our 80 years that we have on this earth compared to even 1,000 years is just a tiny drop in the bucket. Time is precious. Don't wait to make this decision.

Will you accept God's gift of salvation this Christmas? And no matter where you are in the world, you can celebrate Christmas for it's real meaning.

If you want to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior please read on to the verses I have attached below. There's nothing magical about it- it's a simple step of faith and putting your trust in God's hands.
I'm so thankful someone told me about Christ and salvation. It is the single most important decision a person can make. I feel so unworthy that Jesus would take my place on the cross of Calvary. I deserved death not him. But I am justified by the blood of Jesus. Won't you put your faith in Christ today?

To all of you, I wish you a very
Merry Christmas!

Each year my heart is burdened for one or two people God has placed in my life and for their salvation. It is my prayer that just one soul might come to know Him this Christmas season. What a great gift that would be! Don't forget to share God's love to all those around you during the hustle and bustle of Christmas!

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;- Romans 3:23

1. We are all sinners.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: Romans 5:12
 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. I John 1:8
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am [he], ye shall die in your sins. John 8:24

2. We need a Savior. 
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12 

3. Christ paid the penalty for our sin. 
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Ephesians 2:8

4. We must confess our sins. 
 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

5. Simply accept God's gift of salvation. Put your faith in the One who loves you the most. Give your life to Christ. I promise you won't regret it. 

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Pray to God and ask Him into your heart. 
If you've never prayed or don't do it often-it's simple. Just talk to God like you would a friend but maybe a little more respectful ;). Tell him from your heart that you accept his free gift of salvation. That you are putting your trust in Him completely and fully.  Confess your sins that you have committed. 
God will forgive you of all your sins, past, present and future. Salvation is a one time gift and decision. God promises his eternal gift of salvation to all who believe. 

If you've just accepted Christ as your Savior, I beg of you to let me know through email or a comment. I would love to rejoice with you and pray for you. jnapranger@yahoo.com is my email address. Isn't God good?! Merry Christmas!! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Letters to Jacob #1

My Sweet Little Boy,

   Well Jacob, Mommy has been slacking in writing you letters. I wrote a few notes to you before you were born but none after! Time sure has flown since that great day that we welcomed you into this world. You are just a couple weeks shy of being 14 months old. And I am loving this stage of your life!

As I watched you sleep during your nap time (we love nap time!) I couldn't help but get lost in thought. I don't know why my thoughts drifted to sentimental mode but they did. My heart just melts when I look at your sweet face and you smile back at me. Watching you sleep so peacefully in your pack n play, made me realize that this stage of life won't last forever. You look so tiny in there and fit just perfectly in your bed. But soon you will outgrow it and get a big boy bed. Part of me looks forward to you growing up but another part of me wants to freeze time and keep you little forever!

One day, Lord willing, you will get married and have your own family.
I know that's how I feel about you getting married too!
I only get to hold you like this once and I don't want to miss any moments. To be honest, I get a little jealous at the thought of another woman taking care of you, but I'm sure she will do a great job and you'll give us lots of grand babies!!! I never knew what a joy having a son would bring me until the Lord blessed us with you. You are so much fun! You must get that from my side of the family. (Kidding- Daddy's side of the family is a lot of fun too!) 

So today you woke us up very early, 8:30am. ;) I always look forward to putting you to bed each night and getting you out of bed every morning. Our night time ritual consists of brushing your teeth with the electric toothbrush, which you love, putting your pi's on and a clean diaper if needed, reading a Bible story and saying our prayers. It's so nice to be able to have a "routine" now that we can put you in your own room and be a family! (Did you know Mommy and Daddy haven't had a home since you were born?! We still don't but we will soon! God has always provided a place for us to live since the day we brought you home!) I love tucking you into bed and then rescuing you in the morning when you want out!

Lately, you've learned to put your hands out and reach for me while frantically squishing your hands. I love that!! :) I'll bend over and you'll wrap your arms around my neck and lay your head on my shoulder and snuggle. You never ever ever snuggled us!! For the first two weeks of your life you did but after that forget it! Daddy and I are enjoying this snuggly stage! :) And now you are walking really well! You always want what we are eating and drinking rather than what's in front of you. You love coffee too! Definitely our son! And you didn't like olives when you tried them last week (that's my boy!) You are growing up too fast!

Today after breakfast, we went in the living room to watch you play with your toys as we snuggled on the couch and drank coffee. You did not like not being invited to snuggle on the couch! You were very jealous of Daddy and pushed his head away from me and tried pulling me away! Haha. We brought you up on the couch to join us and you weren't satisfied until I moved away from Daddy and you had me all to yourself! You gave me lots of kisses and snuggles until Daddy interrupted and tickled you. I wish I could have frozen time at that moment. Everything seemed perfect. We were just us- happy as could be!

We are very privileged to get to raise you and have you for 18 years, Lord willing. I will cherish the moments we have together! I love you with all my heart! I pray daily for you and your future wife. :) May the Lord use you in whatever way He sees fit!

Your Always Young and Beautiful,
Mommy! :)

Hello squishy baby!! :) The moment you stole my heart!
A sleeping newborn! Mama's favorite!
You'll always be my little pumpkin!

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Power of Words

I have been behind in keeping up with the weekly verses on my blog. So I hope to change that! This week I want to meditate on a couple of verses.

This week I will be studying on the power of words. 
Now those of you who know me, know I enjoy a little sarcasm here and there. But I have to be careful to not over-do it at times. (Some people are just easy targets for my sense of humor and usually those are the ones who can be a little sensitive… Great peace have they that love thy law and nothing shall offend them. Now if we all could memorize that one! :)
I would never want to intentionally hurt someone with my words. I want to be known as someone who lifts up and encourages others so Christ can be seen through me. My prayer is that the Lord would bring just one person my way each day to be a blessing and an encouragement to. So here are the verses the Lord gave me today. 

Proverbs 12:25 & 16:24

"Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: 
but a good word maketh it glad.

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones."

As you go about your week this week, let's be mindful to encourage one another. 
This time of year although it is such a happy time of year, it can also be a very difficult time of year for some. For many it means celebrating the holidays without loved ones for the first time. 

Don't forget to look around you as you go about preparing for the holidays. Don't be too busy to notice people and pray for them. And after you've prayed for them let them know it in a card or in conversation. You will be surprised at the blessing you will be to them! 

And this is also a great time of year to bring up Christ in conversation with others and invite them to church. What better way to enjoy the holidays then sharing the good news of Christ?! Let's go tell the world! And be a Light for Christ in all that we say and do. 

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. Proverbs 18:21

Death and life are in the power of the tongue--think before you speak! What do your words say? Do they lift up others? Do they share the good news of Christ? Are they health to the bones and sweet like honeycomb? 

Have a great week! 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Becoming a Runner

Running was a sport that looked like fun but I could never get started. 

One determined day, I laced up my shoes and headed out the door. Today was the day I would become a runner! But after 30 seconds of running, I was so winded and tired. I thought I was crazy to try to start running and I better head back inside before anyone witnessed my failed attempt at running. 

After I was married, I was determined again! I was working at Starbucks and my awesome manager, Josh was a runner. We also had a lot of regulars who were runners and I wanted to be a part of the elite club! So again, I laced up my shoes and went with my handsome guy out for a run. 

James was being a good motivator and tried to push me to run further and longer than I wanted to. It was good for me! We would run about 1.5 miles. But after a few weeks of running, I would slowly quit. It was too hard! 

Then in February 2012, we received the most exciting news- we were expecting! In my second trimester, I wanted to start some light exercise. I thought I could power walk for a mile. I could do that- it's not running but it's better than walking, right? Yet again, I laced up those tennis shoes, and headed out the door. Little did I know, I was about to run my first of many many miles, a journey of no return! 

There I was power walking in Rogersville, Missouri, (home of my awesome sister, Heather!). But after about a minute of brisk walking, I was bored. This was taking too long. So I decided I would run for a little bit to help speed up the process. I ran for about 30 seconds and then walked. After I caught my breath, I ran again. I did this for the whole mile. And once I finished, I was so excited! I RAN 1 MILE! Haha 

I wanted to work up to the point where I was running the entire mile and not walking. And I did! It took me awhile to work up to it but I did it. I remember being able to keep up with James the next time we ran together, it was a huge accomplishment for me! 

Throughout my entire pregnancy (up to two days before I went into labor) I ran 1-2 miles, five days a week. When I was tired or sore from running, I would make sure to go the next day. This helped stretch my legs and made me feel much better. At this time, I wasn't doing distance so I didn't need to rest days in between. But if you need a day of rest then take it! Don't burn yourself out but don't take the easy road either. :) It's okay to push yourself a little bit at a time! Only you know your body so listen to it! 

Running while pregnant isn't for everyone. I know many women have health conditions that don't allow it but the majority can exercise moderately! They say to never start something new while pregnant. But if it's light moderate exercise it's okay. Don't train for your first marathon or anything crazy like that but one mile a day is safe. Just make sure it's okay with your doctor or midwife. Running for me was great for my pregnancy. It helped with all the aches and pains and with delivery! 

Don't use being pregnant as an excuse to not exercise. Rather use it as a motivation to start! Do it for that sweet growing babe inside of you. Or if God has already blessed you with children, do it for them! You owe it to them and yourself to be healthy! I promise you won't regret it. 

For those of you who are interested in starting your running career, simply start. Every runner started off somewhere. I started pregnant and traveling on deputation! Nobody woke up one day, rolled out of bed and ran a marathon. Okay I'm sure there's someone but he's crazy and I'm sure never did that again. Or if your like my courageous sister in law, Hannah, you sign up for your first marathon after only running for a week and have only five months to train. But she will tell you more on that in a future post! She's awesome!

It takes time to build up to it. Start small and work your way up. Download an app and get started. I've heard a lot of beginners like Couch to 5K for a starting plan. Also download a running app to keep track of your progress. I love the Nike Plus running app. It keeps track of miles, calories burned, and you can write notes about your run (which is great if you're training for a marathon of half marathon.) it tells you your average pace and you can review all your miles in your run to see fastest and slower times. Currently, I've run 1,266 miles since Jacob was born, 211 runs and an average pace of 9:26. 

For those who have already begun your running journey, stay consistent! Consistency is key. Exercising one day a week won't result in much results if any. And challenge yourself! If you've never ran in a race sign up for a 5K! If you only walk 5K's work up to running the entire race. Sign up for a half marathon if you're comfortable running 3 miles. Most training plans are very doable. You'll be surprised what you can accomplish if you try! 

My next running posts will be on How to Stay Motivated and How I got started in Running Distance. I hope to write a running post at least every other week. And also have guest posts from other runners- their best advice and their journey into running. Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fajitas & Bologna

One of the things I looked forward to most about moving to Russia, was finally being able to settle down. Set up home, have friends over, decorate house- you know normal things people do when they don't travel all the time.

Well since we are house sitting, I can't completely settle in and set up home. However, I am able to invite friends over, which is one of my favorite things! Now typically, when I invite friends over I try to make a nice meal for them. I want them to enjoy themselves and the food! And when I'm planning a meal for guest, bologna is usually far far far from my mind!

This past Thursday, we invited one of the missionary families, James and Cassie Dean, and their girls over for dinner.
They actually just left today to head back to the States on furlough. Please pray for them as they travel and raise the additional support they need!
The power had been out all day, but just before they arrived, the power came back on! I had prepared all the food the day before so dinner was on the table in less than an hour. I was so thankful I had prepared ahead of time! We enjoyed our time together and had a nice hot Italian meal!

Then Monday, we invited our friends Matt and Katie Northcutt over. We had a lunch date and fajitas were on the menu. Sunday night was upon me and I wasn't in the cooking mood, but I knew I should go ahead and get everything ready. Then in the morning I could go for a run without worrying about doing a million things. So I did just that! I prepared and baked the apple pie, made salsa and hummus, and chopped up the chicken and veggies. Life was good.

It's Monday morning and what happens? You guessed it, the power went out again! Seriously, what are the odds?!?

Hmmm…what to do…reschedule? risk it?

The important things were done, apple pie, salsa and hummus! Mmmm we could live off of that. So I risked it!

Our guests arrive. Still no power…

2pm I reluctantly decided to go with making sandwiches. I didn't really want to serve my guests bologna when I had made a Mexican feast! Katie was actually pretty excited about eating bologna since she loves it and hadn't had it since the summer. James is the bologna eater in our home, (Gross! haha)  I prefer turkey! (Does anyone really know what's in bologna??) I felt a little bad to serve sandwiches when I had prepared a nice meal, but everyone was flexible and didn't seem to mind. ( I know secretly they were pining for some fajitas!)

5:45pm still no power. So we decided to head to their apartment in the city and make the fajitas for dinner and watch a Christmas movie.

6:02pm we were just about to pile in the car and then the power comes back on! Finally!

We ended up still going to the city and making our fajitas at their apartment and watching a Christmas movie. It was a impromptu progressive dinner and we had a great time!

The power actually just came back on today too after being off for five hours! Ha. My point is sometimes things happen in our lives that are out of our control, like the power going out. What we  do have control over is our reaction and our response to the situation. And even in situations where we do have some control, it's usually best to let go and let God work things out. How do you respond when things don't go according to plan? Are you trusting God in the areas you don't have control over? Or are  you trying to figure out 100 ways how you can fix it? Simply, trust God.

He knows you worked hard to make a nice Mexican feast for your friends, but for now He wants you to eat bologna and be thankful for it!

And be wise with your time, you never know when the power will go out! ;)

31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 ...for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. **

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matthew 6

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Homemade Hummus & Salsa

The Christmas season is upon us! And I'm sure for many of you, that means Christmas parties galore! The temptation during the holidays is to eat unhealthy. Most people associate healthy eating with tasting bad but that is not the case here!

Here are two really simple and quick recipes to mix up the night before a party: Basic Garlic Hummus & Simple Salsa. The best part is they take about 10 minutes or less to prepare! 
You want to leave time for the flavors to marinate for a few hours before serving, but it's best overnight.

I've never made either salsa or hummus before so this was my first time. I can only imagine the recipes getting even more tastier the more I experiment.  I love chips and salsa and in recent years have discovered my love for hummus. You can buy salsa here in Siberia, but it's made by Heinz. And it taste like ketchup- yuck!!

I'm having friends over this afternoon for lunch and am making fajitas and I really wanted some hummus and salsa.

Basic Garlic Hummus

1 Can of Garbanzo beans (chick peas) drained and rinsed
2 tsp of fresh cilantro
1 fresh minced garlic clove or 2 tsp of garlic powder
2 tsp of fresh parsley
1/2 tsp of cumin
1 TBSP of olive oil
1 1/2 TBSP of tahini (sesame seed paste- I didn't have this and it can be made without it.) 

Add these to help cream the hummus
*1 TBSP of Sour cream ( I added this to make it a little more creamy. This is optional)
*1 TBSP of water (optional but I recommend. Add more if needed)

Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend. Scrape the sides to help cream hummus. When I blended everything it still tasted pretty bland- so I added the sour cream and a few extra seasonings that I like (Italian). So feel free to add whatever you like to your taste. 

Scrape into a bowl. Add paprika for color and a sprinkle of parsley and cilantro on top for decorations! 

Serve with tortilla chips, pita bread or veggies! 

Add 1/4 C of roasted red peppers
3 TBSP of lemon juice 
1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper  

Simple Salsa

Simple Salsa:
4 ripe tomatoes
1/4 C of cilantro ( I love cilantro!!)
1/3 C or less of finely chopped onion (or less depending on taste)
2 TBSP of finely chopped pepper (jalepeno, but I used green pepper since I didn't have a jalepeno)
1 tsp of minced garlic (or garlic powder)
Bowl two cups of hot water and pour over onion and green pepper. Let cook for about 5 minutes and drain and rinse with cold water. 
Add all ingredients to food processor. And pulse just until blended. Leave it chunky or puree it according to how you want the consistency. I like it chunky but processed a little bit for flavor. 

Again, you can make this as spicy or as mild as you like it. Omit or reduce onion for less of a kick and omit or reduce the jalepeno also. Or add more to make it spicy and throw in some cayenne pepper. I added too much onion to mine but I know for next time! 

Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy these two healthy dips for your holiday parties! 

Up next on the recipe posts will be : Apple Pie, and Apple Pie Oatmeal Cookies ( a fun twist on oatmeal raisin cookies!) 

"O taste and see that the Lord is good!"

Hope you enjoy my recipes as I am learning to cook from scratch here in Russia! 

I also welcome any salsa or hummus recipes that you like or any tricks and tips you would like to share! 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Sip of Humility

As I sit here unwinding from my day, I have in hand a warm cup tea accompanied with an amazing apple pie cookie. (Yes a cookie that taste like apple pie! Recipe to be posted soon!) Life is good! 

** Insert feed baby, feed husband, clean kitchen (for the 91st time today), sweep up mess made by Jacob, start dishwasher (praise the Lord for the dishwasher!) change another dirty diaper, train Jacob on the word "no", get Jacob ready for bed, realize his clothes need washed, throw laundry in the wash, take out clean clothes, hang clean clothes up to dry (dryer still broken), put away dry clothes that are hanging, sit down and get back in the writing zone! **

Okay now as I sit here and unwind from my day, I have an iced coffee in hand and am ready to relax! It's been a full and great day! We had a wonderful service today, and had the teens/kids stay over after service for tea and cookies. Then I went for a run, and visited our neighbor Babavara. Allow me to introduce you to Babavara.
This picture couldn't be more perfect because as you can see Jacob has candy! She just loves spoiling him! And I allow it since we don't normally give him a whole piece of chocolate (let alone 3!). I do have to cut him off after two pieces. Babavara, Grandma Barbara, is our beautiful next door neighbor. She has been widowed now for a little over two years ( I believe). I do my best to go over and visit her at least twice a week. It's a great way for me to learn a few new words each time I go. 

Before my sweet friend, DeeDee Sterling, left me all alone here in Siberia, we visited Babavara. As we entered her house, she welcomed us with her shiny smile and put some tea on. She began pulling things out of the fridge and insisted we eat up! Fruit, bread, chocolate…anything she could find. 

This act of kindness always humbles me. 

  It's customary here in Russia to offer your guests tea and something to eat when they come for a visit. I love this! Not just because I love to eat but because it's a good reminder to not be too busy to stop and take time for people. There have been several times we go to visit people, and it doesn't matter what time of day it is, what they are doing, they stop everything to make you feel welcomed into their home. They offer you tea and whatever they have to be a blessing. A sip of humility!

  I believe it would be pretty safe to say in America, we are a very schedule oriented people. If I were to pop in on a friend unexpectedly, I would probably be offered something to drink while my friend either ran around the house trying to tidy up or continued what she was doing while talking to me. And I would probably be guilty of the same thing. At times, I get so wrapped up in trying to make the house clean, and play hostess that I don't take time to stop and enjoy my company. Sure we have conversations, but as I'm doing the dishes and putting leftovers away, then getting out dessert and making coffee, then the vicious cycle repeats. This reminds me of a little story in the Bible…Mary and Martha. 
Martha & Mary Summed Up: 
Jesus came to Martha's house. Martha welcomed him into her home and immediately began preparing food and playing hostess, like any good woman! Her sister Mary simply sat at the feet of Jesus listening to him. (Lazy Mary!) So Martha got super stressed out and had had enough of doing all the work alone! So she came and whined to Jesus, asking him to make Mary come help her in the kitchen. Jesus calmly said, Silly Martha, Relax! Okay what he really said was, 
"Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41,42
Poor Martha! Martha gets a lot of bad PR (public relations). But Martha was being a good hostess. She was making her guest feel welcomed. If you were a hungry guest at Mary's house, you would still be a hungry guest when you left. So let's be honest, who would you want to host you? I don't know about you but I would want Martha! 
There needs to be a balance! 
But let's not miss the point here. Jesus said one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part. She realized what was most important and that was spending time with Jesus. 
First and foremost.
May we not be too busy in the ministry and doing things that we miss the most important part, spending time with Jesus. Satan uses busyness to distract us from our relationship with Christ. If Satan can distract us from spending time with Christ, then we go about doing our ministry in our own strength. And then Satan has won!
If it wasn't for people, we wouldn't have a ministry! How silly is it to be cumbered about many things, that we miss ministering the love of Christ to people?! Take time to enjoy your friends and family. Life is too short to be too busy!

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Stress-Free Thanksgiving!

Stress Free & Holidays- Do the two mix??

Well maybe not entirely, but you can do your best! I mean let's be honest whenever there's family involved it is usually stressful on some level. Ha!

I like to be as stress free as possible! It's in my nature. I don't like to stress- it's no fun! I like to be one step ahead if I can. Now this doesn't mean I always accomplish being ahead or being stress free but that is always my initial goal.

What is stress?

Stress is result of a lack of trust in God, it's a sin. I never really thought about it that way until I sat down and pondered it a moment. Talk about convicting! Even in the little things, God wants you to trust Him!

Stress creeps in when we have fallen behind in our daily tasks or if we haven't communicated properly with our spouse, etc. For James and I it used to be on Sundays that we would fight stress. Why is that? Who would want us stressed out on Sundays so our minds aren't on Christ and Christ can't be honored and glorified-Satan. So be mindful of this truth when you are about to stress out and go loco on your family. Stop and pray! God cares about you more than you know!

With that in mind here are some simple and practical tips to help your Holidays have a little less stress!

#1. Make lists! If your life is insanely busy, write down a schedule and prioritize what you can get done before Thanksgiving. Grocery List, To-Do List, etc. You'll feel better once it's all written down. Delegate what you can. And don't be too prideful to ask for help! Sure you can do it all alone but if you don't have to--don't! ( It's a little bold of me to say that but I used to be that prideful person who tried to do it all myself. I didn't want to bother anyone but I found life is so much more happier when asking for help! ) 

#2.  If you haven't gone grocery shopping--get out there! The sooner the better! The stores will just be insane by Wednesday. I know, I know, you just haven't had time. Well it's time to make time!

#3. Cook ahead! I have a friend who cooks her turkey the day before and has it all cut and ready to eat. She keeps it in broth so it doesn't dry out and warming in the crockpot. Genius Idea! I made the -from scratch- green bean casserole and the sweet potato casserole a few days ahead and put them in the freezer. Pull them out and put them in the fridge about 48 hours ahead of time and pop in the oven the day of! And anything else you can cook ahead of time- do it! 

If you make rolls from scratch- let the dough rise about an hour, then punch the dough and form the rolls. Put them directly in the freezer before letting them rise the second time. When you're ready to bake them, put them into the oven frozen and turn on the oven- don't preheat! The rolls will thaw, rise, and bake to perfection! Time saved! Your welcome! :)    

#4. Clean house- one room at a time. One day at a time. Don't leave all the cleaning to the day before. And it doesn't have to be perfect! No one will inspect your ceiling fan…Well I may but I won't be there, so no worries there!

#5.  Relax, ! It's just food! What doesn't get done, will get done eventually. Don't get too busy to not enjoy your family and friends! (Remember the story of Mary and Martha?!) The dishes will get done later on- so sit enjoy the food and fellowship! And make your Black Friday shopping list and strategy!

And if all else fails and dinner is a complete disaster- there's always Cracker Barrel or Papa Johns!

#6. Last but certainly not least- Give thanks to God! Every good thing is a gift from the Lord. (Remember stress is sin-& stress wrinkles--no one wants those!)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

So Happy Week of Thanksgiving to you! May the Lord bless you this holiday season. Hope I could be of some tiny assistance and your holidays are a little less stressful! 

Stay tuned for some pumpkin coffee cake muffin, pumpkin cookies, and green bean casserole from scratch recipes!

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Ephesians 5:20

Saturday, November 23, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Take a Benadryl…

Well that's what I have to do since I'm oddly enough allergic to them. But anyways back to my point...

We all know the saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." 

Simply, make the best of your situation. When things don't go the way they are planned, be flexible.

For me, it means finding a new "normal".  Starbucks, Aldis, Target, The Limited- these are a few of my favorite stores, and none of these are here in Siberia. So do I sit around and sulk?

No, I can't! So I've been trying to make lemonade.

And even though Siberia sounds desolate and isolated it really isn't that bad. At least not here in the city of Krasnoyarsk. So here's what I've found.


"Travelers Coffee"

All organic delicious coffee! And at the mall there's a Cinnabon where we like to grab Americano's and the ladies there remember us and our order! They smile every time we show up and I just smile back. They know I can't speak Russian so we just spend a few moments smiling. So I have my new "Starbucks" two of them!


Metro is a grocery store that's a lot like Sam's Club and a Super center Target combined. You don't need to put a quarter in the cart to use it but they don't bag your groceries like Aldi's! It's not as awesome as Target but it'll do!

Papa John's:
"Papa John's!"

 They just got Papa John's here in Krasnoyarsk about a year ago! And pizza is best shared with friends! This is my friend Katie!

Welcome to Planeta -The Mall- The Limited:

And my favorite part is the palm trees!! God put palm trees in Siberia for me! They have a lot of stores I recognize like Nike, Lacoste, Lush, and even a Sephora! Well a Russian version but it's still a Sephora! 

See so living in Siberia isn't all that bad! Don't get me wrong, there are times it's difficult and I get really homesick. I teared up when received our first care packages from my mother and father in law. I was excited to see grocery bags from Giant Eagle and a Bath and Body Works bag. ha! But I will talk more on that in my next post about Thanksgiving and how to make home made green bean casserole! You'll never go back to the canned kind. 

So life is what you make of it! And God cares about the little desires of your heart, like palm trees and coffee! (I'm sure there will be coffee in heaven. And we will sit around and listen to Jesus talk!) Make sure to keep your eyes on Christ and everything will fall into place. Trust God completely, He knows what He is doing. Remember? His ways are higher than our ways! 

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Psalm 37:4

O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man

 that trusteth in him.  Psalm 34:8

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The verses God put in the Bible just for me!

So I am very excited about this post!

I have been praying for the past month that God would give me a verse or two.
Not just any verses but verses that I could claim for my own. Verses that would remind me when the days are tough and seem fruitless, why we are here and lift my spirits.

Now that's some high expectations for some verses (well from me but not for God)!

So how does a person find specific verses like that? Is there a book we can go to to magically find a life verse or special verse?

The answer is simple…

Read the Bible. And pray.

There is no "magical" way of locating verses like that but through prayerful study of God's Word. Sooo you gotta read and stick with it. It will amaze you how much more you get from reading the Bible when you intentionally pay attention. Well it amazed me. :) 

I have been searching in God's Word for these verses. Searching for a hidden treasure. I knew God would give me the verses eventually.

The other day, I opened up my Bible and it opened to Isaiah 57. I flipped back a few chapters and decided to start reading in chapter 55. I wasn't reading in Isaiah in my devotions but I thought, why not take a little read. Not knowing that I was about to find my verses!

The Lord gave me Isaiah 55:8-9 when He called us to go to Russia for the first time. My heart was scared and I didn't understand why God would move us to a new ministry so soon (and so far away!).

The Bible says clearly in those two verses that God's thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways. And as the heavens are higher than the earth so are His ways and thoughts are higher than our own. It doesn't get any more clearer than that! And as children of God, we are to simply trust God and live by faith. That means not knowing where are next step will be, but trusting the One who does know.

So I read a little further and in my Bible I have verses 8-13 underlined except verse 10. But today it popped out to me.

Isaiah 57:10
"For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:

(11) So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."

Are those not perfect verses?! 

It got me thinking

The truth in these verses are so simple but yet so powerful. 

When it snows (or rains)- the water doesn't go back into the clouds- it stays on the ground. Pretty basic truth. But something I really never thought about. And God compares the snow/rain to His Word, the Gospel. 

When God sends the Gospel message to a place, (insert your place of residency--Hawaii-Florida (can you tell I'm daydreaming of tropical places?!)-Africa-Hungary-Brazil-Cleveland-Texas, Siberia .etc you get the idea) His Word will not and can not return void. The Bible says clearly in verse 11 it will accomplish that which pleases God, it will prosper where God sends it. And God has sent me and my family to bring the Gospel to Siberia, Russia. Simply, He has a purpose for us being here and that is to spread the Gospel of Christ. And God will do the rest of the work! 

 Just like the rain and snow bring water to the ground to help the earth and plants to grow (seed to the sower and bread to the eater) so will God's Word be everywhere it is planted and sent. So may I encourage all of you who are around this world planting the Gospel- God is always at work. His Word can not return void. You don't have to be a missionary or pastor or pastor's wife to do the work of the Lord. God may have not called you to be in ministry but that doesn't  mean your position or place in life is any less important. Your responsibility to share the Gospel is very important. You may know people at work that only you can come in contact with that your pastor may never meet. Do they see God in your life? 

Let's get busy about the Lord's work! And when your efforts seem fruitless, be mindful of these verses. It shall prosper whereto I sent it. 

God is good! I'm so thankful He gave me these verses! How about you? Are there verses that you are searching for to claim as your own? I would love to hear about your life verse or a verse that has spoken to you in recent days. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Beautiful Nail-Just One

Our First Youth Activity: Girls Night!

What girl doesn't like to have their nails painted and be treated like royalty?

Okay, maybe you're the exception…but all you other normal girls are with me, right? You sit down, they cater to you make you feel so special and that it's all about you…I love getting manicures and pedicures. Pedicures are my favorite because you get to sit in the massage chair, and soak your feet, they massage them for a minute, and lotion…ahhh I'm feeling relaxed just thinking about it.

I have a confession…

I used to be a really bad steward of my money…

When I was a teenager about 14 years old, I would regularly get my nails done. The acrylic french tip kind. A total waste of money now as I look back on it. But I enjoyed it! I could be wearing my pajamas and still feel dressed up because I had my nails all fancy! Ha! That's what happens when a teenager starts working at the age of 14 and doesn't know what else to spend her money on. In my defense I always had a savings account. But I do like shopping. :D

So here's a YouTube video that is one of my favorites. If you've never had your nails done at a salon, you don't know what you're missing out on! And if you have- you can totally relate to this video!

Comedian Angelina Johnson- Nail Salon

**You truly aren't allowed to finish reading this post without clicking on the link above. Four minutes you won't regret. Promise!**

Okay now that we've had our laugh for the day, I'll get back to our youth activity!

Meet the ladies! (There are six teen girls that I've met that come to church. Four out of the six were able to come! Praise the Lord!  
Dasha & Marina 

Alina, Yana, & Dasha

So I gave them the spa treatment while they taught me some Russian words!

Spa Treatment:
They first soaked their nails, then I put cuticle removal on them and removed and pushed back their cuticles. Soaked again. Then I cut and filed their nails, then painted them!

They were a fun bunch! They wanted me to surprise them with their nail colors and designs, so they covered their eyes with their scarves and didn't look until I was all done.

I only got to 3 of the 4 girls that were there-I'll do hers Sunday after church. :)

When they arrived I had oatmeal raisin coconut cookies awaiting them with tea.  I accidentally brought out the powdered milk instead of the sugar. They had all poured the milk into their drinks and took a sip and then looked at me with a weird face and asked if it was sugar. 

I said "Da!" and smiled really big! 
(Yes in Russian- my favorite word haha.) 

And then I realized my mistake! Oops!! ( Which is the same in Russian and English!) And we all laughed. It was fun trying to have conversations back and forth. When we would get stumped we would type it on my phone into Google Translate and then be able to understand each other. It was such a great time! I'm so thankful they took time to come. 

I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend time with them! I have a feeling we will become really close with the people here in the village over the next 5 months. I pray the Lord can use us to see new souls come to know Christ and those who are saved that they would grow and be discipled in the Word. 

We are starting a Youth Bible Study Night on Tuesday next week. Please pray with us that we will see many of the teens come and God will work in lives! We had some teens show up this last Tuesday thinking we had church- so that was very encouraging! 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sink or Swim

What a difference a week can make!

Last Sunday, as most of you know I was having a hard time adjusting to my new surroundings. But as always, the Lord has been faithful. It has been such a great week!

We have been super busy since we have arrived here in Russia. There's a lot of work involved as far as paperwork is concerned. And that means driving from this place to that place back to this place, and so on. Our friends, David and DeeDee Sterling, were wonderful at helping us get to all the places we needed to go the first couple of weeks. Then they left us :( and went back to the States on a needed furlough. Insert us- taking care of their home and church while they're gone.

Currently, we are working on applying for our permanent residency visas. I'll spare you all the boring details, but there's a lot involved. So with everything going on, we have yet to find a tutor for me. We have a couple of options but nothing has opened up. And I am so antsy to start learning.

Well they say the best way to learn a language is to sink or swim. A person must immerse themselves in the culture and language to learn. So I decided to jump in the deep end and hope I could at least doggy paddle!

All bundled up and ready to go for a visit! 
I decided to start with our neighbor, Babavara (Grandma Barbara in English.) 
Me & Grandma Babavara

She gave Jacob a couple outfits for his birthday, so of course the nice thing to do would be to dress him up in the clothes and take him to see her. So that's what I did!
The first time I went to visit her with DeeDee and her daughter, Rebekah, she initiated me into Russia. I had to try this...

What is this? Cold, gelled fat. There's a name for it, but basically it's animal fat from a chicken- put in the fridge to gel up and get cold and then they eat it like a cold soup. YUCK!! So after trying this, I felt like I officially became a missionary. If that's the worst thing I have to eat then I'm not doing so bad! 

So our visit went well. She kept talking in Russian and I would try to understand her and vice versa. I really had no clue as to what she was talking about the whole time. I picked up the word "machina" which is car and a few other basic words. I did a lot of pointing and sounds. Good thing I know sign language! In 20 minutes time, she gave Jacob two pieces of chocolate, one orange candy, and one orange clementine!  I believe it's safe to say, Jacob will be back to visit often! 

Then Sunday rolled around, and I wanted to do more than just sit there. And James asked if I could teach a lesson and he would translate. Perfect! So I did just that. During the preaching, I took the two 5 year old girls to do a craft. 
Then afterwards, he told the three teen girls they could stay a little while longer with me. I was nervous at first, but we had a good time laughing and trying to communicate. Thank you Google Translate!  I would type a message on my phone and have it translated and then I would try to say it and if I couldn't I would have them read it. It was wonderful to be able to spend some time getting to know these young ladies. 

My heart was so full at the end of the day. And we could only thank the Lord! He is so good to us. We had a total of 13 in service for church that day. And we hope to have our first "Girls Night" youth activity this week and start a midweek service for the teens as well. It was wonderful to serve the Lord in some capacity even though I don't know the language yet. 

So my encouragement to you is this-- Don't let anything hinder you from serving the Lord. Maybe you are shy or don't know too many people yet. The best way to get to know them is to work along side of them! The list of excuses can be endless.

Everyone can do something! What can you do to get involved in your church? I'm sure your Pastor or Pastor's wife would have a few suggestions! I have heard it said that 10% of the people in a church do 90% of the work. Why is that? How much more could we do for Christ if everyone got involved?! 

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me
Philippians 4:13

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Matthew 19:26

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fluffy Pumpkin Pancakes and Home made Syrup!

Russia Fact #1: There are no pancake mixes or cake mixes
Russia Fact #2: Real Maple Syrup is now available here for $16 for a small bottle

Because of facts #1 & #2 I get to make a lot of things from scratch now! Which I don't mind. Most things taste better from scratch. However, I had yet to find a pancake recipe that I liked better than the box mix...until now! 

With all my running and marathon training I discovered a beautiful thing...I got to eat all the carbs I wanted! And my favorite thing after my long distance runs, were pancakes with peanut butter (great for protein right after a run!) and real maple syrup (great for the taste buds). Leave it to me to fall in love with two of the most expensive things here, peanut butter ($18 for a large jar) and real maple syrup ( not the pretend Aunt Jemima stuff but the real stuff!). So I was able to sneak 2 large jars of Jif Peanut Butter into my suitcases. :)

Okay so enough chatter...

Back to the fluffy pancakes.

I googled "fluffy pancakes" and went with the second recipe that popped up. (Where would we be without google?!) And they were so fluffy! (insert the voice from the little girl on Despicable Me as she grabs her fluffy pony.) 

Okay here's what I discovered... If you swap out the milk for flavored creamer you get even fluffier pancakes. So what ever flavor you like- vanilla, pumpkin, caramel macchiato. The choices are endless!! Now here's a disclaimer, I've only used regular creamer and the pumpkin, so experiment at your own risk! There's no flavored creamer here so I just used regular milk. The butter here is soooo rich and flavorful- so that makes up for it!

* I tripled the batch of dry ingredients and put it in a container with the recipe on it. So now I have my own pancake mix all ready for next time! Then just scoop out 1 1/2 C of dry mix and add wet ingredients.*

Fluffiest Pancakes Ever:


1 1/2 C of flour
1 TBSP Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 TBSP Sugar
(If you don't have flavored creamer Add 2 tsp of Pumpkin spice and 1 tsp of cinnamon).
*A dash of cinnamon if you like!

Mix dry ingredients. Then add wet ingredients. 
Turn on Griddle or Frying Pan to let warm up.

1 1/2 C Milk (or  Pumpkin flavored Creamer)
1 Egg
3 TBSP of melted butter
A splash of Vanilla for added flavor :)

Mix the batter but leave little lumps. Let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile start syrup.
 **Batch makes 6 medium size pancakes- perfect for two adults and one super cute baby.**

Home made Pancake Mix! I mixed 3 batches of the dry ingredients.
Measure out 1 1/2 C of dry mix and add wet ingredients. 

Mmmmm don't those look fluffy?!

Maple Extract I sent my friend here in Russia
 from Amish Country! 
The syrup is awesome! 

Today's batch! 

Good thing I brought two of these Jif jars with me! 
A happy home starts with fluffy pancakes!
This plate is the batch doubled.